Thursday, March 3, 2011

Girls' Day

Today I walked into the kitchen at work and, unsurprisingly, there was food.  I was disappointed to see that it was not manapua.  Instead, there was a bag of fortune cookies (random, I know, but those asians love their fortunes I guess) and a big box of assorted brownies from Napolean's Bakery (note: Napolean's bakery is located at Zippy's and is delicious).  Anyway, hand-written on the box was "Happy Girls' Day!"

I didn't think much of the note and figured "girl's day" was similar to the "take your daughter to work day" that we used to have in middle school when hippie liberals people were trying to tell women they could be something other than barefoot and pregnant tied to a stove.  It wasn't until I went to lunch that girl's day came up again.  As I was standing in line to get a delicious steak wrap and fries from the corner deli, a creepy guy in front of me was handing out hershey's kisses to any girl who was standing around him saying "happy girl's day" in his nice raspy emphysema voice.  When he got to the front of the line to place his order, he had more hershey kisses for the girl's behind the counter.  Now I was intrigued.

First of all, let me just say that I was under the impression we already had a "girl's day."  You might know it by the name Valentine's Day.  You may have heard about it.  It's a day when every schmuck on earth goes out of his way to buy flowers, candy, and gifts before being forced to skip that evening's TV shows and get unnecessarily dressed up to take a woman to an above-average restaurant...all in the name of making her happy.  So although we had a Girl's Day two weeks ago, apparently they need another one.

This girl's day is a Chinese/Japanese tradition.  The 3rd of March is called "Hina-no-Sekku","Hina-Matsuri" (Doll's Festival) or "Momo-no-Sekku" (Peach blossom's Festival) and used to be one of the important seasonal events of ancient China.  Today it has become a function symbolic of Japanese arts and customs.  It has "been in existence in Japan since the Edo Period (17 - 19 centuries)."  The third day of the third month was a day of purification in the Shinto religion from ancient times. The use of dolls in the purification rites is mentioned in the Tale of Genji, written nearly a thousand years ago. Hina Matsuri has some of its roots in this festival of purification.

As part of the tradition, families with young daughters celebrate this event at home to ensure their daughter's future happiness. So how do they make sure their daughters will be happy in the future?  They decorate "hina-Ningyo" (special dolls which are replicas of an ancient emperor and empress and their subordinates).  That's right, the Japanese teach their daughters that the key to happiness is to be a princess and marry an emperor.  I'm surprised there aren't more Japenese people on Long Island...

Anyway, the Japanese dolls are not the everyday dolls kids usually play with but are ceremonial dolls handed down from generation to generation. They are displayed for a few days in the best room of the house, after which they are boxed and put away until next year. Parents who are able to do so buy new sets of dolls for a girl baby born since the preceding festival, and relatives and friends make gifts of dolls.  A set of Hina-dolls usually consists of at least 15 dolls, all in the ancient costumes. The display also includes miniature household articles which often are major artistic productions. The dolls most highly valued are the Dairi-sama, which represent the Emperor and Empress in resplendent court costumes of silk. They are attended by their two ministers, three kanjo (court ladies), and five court musicians. All are displayed on a tier of steps, usually five, from 3 to 6 ft. long and covered with bright red cloth. This stand is specially set up in the home only on this day.  Basically, think of it as the Japanese version of a nativity set...just without the savior.

In the old days, everyone made crude dolls of paper, and as they made them all their ill fortunes and sickness were transferred to the dolls. Gathering the dolls, they went together to a nearby river and threw their evils into the water.  It was also used as an occasion for a family outing just when the spring season started.  Hina-matsuri used to be one of the very few occasions when little Japanese girls had their own parties. It sounds like it used to be quite the shin-dig.  The kids got drunk on the candy and sweets offered to the dolls. Sometimes they cooked and prepared the food and cakes to be offered to the dolls. They drank Shirozake, a sweet mild rice wine, on the occasion. The main offerings are small cakes - hishi mochi (diamond-shaped rice cakes) fruit-shaped candy, tiny white and red dainties of osekihan (glutinous rice boiled with red beans) and colored wheat gluten.

So there you have it.  The Japenese way of celebrating girls.  But I'm sure the deli guy's hershey kisses are a good substitute.


  1. If you continue to create posts regarding women being barefoot, pregnant, and tied to a stove, you may lose your followers... just sayin'. OR you'll get the exact response that you wanted, i.e, this comment... you're sneaky.

  2. WOW....your opinions of women....WOW. I'm speechless. And I'm with Adrienne, I got half way through your blog and STOPPED reading.